Malta Marittima is a government agency primarily instituted to promote and develop the Integrated Maritime Policy and a science-based ‘blue economy’. The Integrated Maritime Policy seeks to provide a more coherent approach to maritime issues, with increased coordination between different policy areas. It focuses on issues that do not fall under a single sector-based policy, such as ‘blue growth’ (economic growth based on different maritime sectors). The agency is committed to pushing forward the Blue Growth Agenda, which consists of the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of marine and coastal ecosystems.
Agency head Franco Schembri stated that the need for a new enabling framework for further development of blue growth is increasingly important. The good news is that EU funds are available for maritime stakeholders to strive. It is worth highlighting that in order to drive blue growth, innovation and research are a prerequisite. To this effect, considerable EU funding programmes are available. The EU Funding Programme Horizon 2020 is primarily based on research, whereas the EASME calls for proposals (Executive Agency for SMEs) that are more based on action, which focuses on the Integrated Maritime Policy and partly on the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). On the other hand, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is one of five European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and it seeks economic blue growth.
Since its establishment, Malta Marittima has been a catalyst between the public and private sectors in an effort to enhance the potential of the Malta’s marine and maritime industry. The scope of the agency, set up in 2016, is to enhance cooperation between the maritime industry and government stakeholders, while putting the island’s maritime sector firmly in the spotlight and promoting it as a hub on local, European and international levels.
“Among our objectives at Malta Marittima, we want to create and promote maritime sectoral clusters and to strengthen competitiveness. We want to build bonds and relationships for the benefit of the economy. In fact, part of the government’s plan for this agency was to create and foster effective relationships with the private sector, and to facilitate communication.”
Franco Schembri, head of Malta Marittima
The maritime sectoral clusters are each comprised of businesses, industry associations, government departments, and academic and research institutions. “Research and experience unequivocally demonstrate that maritime clusters are key to economic development and competitiveness,” Mr Schembri explained. “Clusters underpin an increase in productivity and operational efficiency, and they stimulate and enable innovation – which is such an important element for the future.”
The agency is witnessing progress as a result of the maritime clusters that have already been set up under the four economic pillars of the national integrated maritime policy, namely food, energy, logistics and services. “Over 40 marine and maritime stakeholders from public and private sectors are already partners and form part of the National sectoral clusters within Malta Marittima,” Mr Schembri stated.
One of the key clusters the agency is in the process of launching is the Blue Bio-Technology Cluster working group. Marine biodiversity has registered important advancement in a significant number of industries such as the pharmaceutical industry and the aquaculture sector.
“Bio-technology is the study and use of renewable and biological resources and organisms and their corresponding conversion into vital products and bio-energy" Franco Schembri said. "It is a fast-growing economic sector, both on a European and global level, due to the increased demand for renewable and naturally-sourced resources.”
Mr Schembri explained that Malta Marittima developed a scheme to encourage innovative science-based business ideas. The scheme, titled the Maritime Proof of Concept Fund, and better known by its brand name MarSa, was launched in 2017, and was designed to facilitate innovation and the creation of business ideas in the Marine field through research at the University of Malta, aiming for commercialisation. The idea behind this fund is to encourage academics and students, who have creative and innovative ideas, to get the financial support needed to enable them to develop their ideas in 'business concepts'. That purpose of this measure is to help academics and students to drive forward ideas for marketing and ultimately, the creation of new businesses in our country. The fund is intended to reduce the gap between initial laboratory and market development, and provide support for researchers and entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, another key area for the agency is the development of the WestMed Initiative, which was launched in November 2017. As the name suggests, it is an initiative specifically focused on the sustainable development of the blue economy in the Western Mediterranean. The primary objective here is to set common, collective actions for a safer, cleaner and more productive sea across all the countries in the region, namely France, Italy, Libya, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Portugal, Spain and, of course, Malta.
“A smart and resilient blue economy can only be attained through the adoption of a constant culture of innovation and knowledge sharing which ascertains sustainable competitiveness and economic activities. The region is particularly renowned for its flourishing maritime tourism sector, which needs to be sustained through innovative and diversification strategies,” Mr Schembri said.
“The seas and oceans can certainly be a source of jobs and prosperity – but only if they are healthy, safe and sustainably managed. To drive forward key maritime sectors like renewable energy, aquaculture, tourism and blue biotech, we need to improve ocean knowledge, planning and security; provide adequate support with EU funds; and improve cooperation between countries, regions and businesses. That is the rationale behind the EU's Blue Growth strategy, which brings together economic growth and sustainable ecosystems in one coherent policy. That is what we will strive to do in collaboration with our partners. At Malta Marittima, we are committed to striving to build bridges and partnerships with both public entities and private stakeholders.”
Source: Malta Chamber of Commerce